Optimal Defense
Life cycle
Kin conflict
leaf defense

The wild parsnip













Stevens, C.J. 1984. Parsnips. The Literary Review 28:119.

label.jpg (153098 bytes) To a biologist (and to those unfortunate enough to have had intimate contact with parsnips), the poem by C.J. Stevens has unintended meaning; the phrase "and in me a burning too" is less likely to impart the notion of desire than a true physical burning.  Wild parsnips, like many of their apiaceous relatives, contain furanocoumarins, toxic chemicals that once absorbed by the skin and exposed to solar UV cause painful blistering (photodermatitis).
Where do parsnips grow? Wild parsnips (Pastinaca sativa L.), introduced from Europe in the 17th century, were probably brought to North America by colonists as a food plant.  The wild plants typically occupy sunny, disturbed habitats, such as railroad rights-of-way and roadsides throughout the northeastern part of the U.S. rail.JPG (15428 bytes)
savoy.JPG (82852 bytes) A monocarpic biennial
In central Illinois, the parsnip is largely biennial.  It reproduces once during its lifetime (monocarpic), flowering in May and June.  For further information, check out the parsnip lifecycle


Other links--articles by David J Eagan (article 1article 2)

last updated 4/8/2000